The Hedge Revival: wisdom from the margins

It’s a funny creature, the word ‘hedge’: like all the best words, it’s something of a shapeshifter. In one sense we use it to convey a boundary, something which closes us in. Think of the modern suburban hedge: regimented rows of neatly clipped, soulless leylandii; privet which has been so harshly treated that it forgets how to bloom. But in another sense, we use the word ‘hedge’ to indicate something quite different: the wild margins which surround the cultivated fields. Think now of the gnarly old hedgerows of Britain and Ireland: thick, richly flowering, berried hawthorn and elder, blackthorn and hazel. An abundance of food and shelter for wild things. Secret places, where treasure might be found, where birds might speak to you, and foxes sing to the stars. An ancient hedge is a place where anything might happen. A liminal place, where the wisdom of the wild margins is available to all. Hedge wisdom. Read More

Resistance: the Mythos and the Logos

There’s a lot of talk about resistance right now. All kinds of people telling us what we must do, what we must not do, how to act, how we’re bad if we don’t act, how to make a radical act, how to be an activist, how to be the right kind of activist (their kind of activist), how to resist, resist, resist … Read More

Imbolg: the constancy of change, and the ‘end-of-history’ illusion

Imbolg, sometimes written as Imbolc, is probably derived from the Irish word bolg, for ‘belly’, so meaning ‘in the belly’; it has also been speculated that it might come from the word oimelc, meaning ‘ewe’s milk’.  (And please note: contrary to what many helpful sites on the web try to tell you, you don’t pronounce the ‘b’: the word is pronounced ‘i-molg’.) Imbolg is one of the festivals known as ‘cross-quarter days’; it comes midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Although it’s sometimes called St Brigid’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde, this festival is ancient, and predates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It’s likely to have been associated with the old goddess Brigid, who was later appropriated into the new religion. Read More

On darkness, and the Cave of Cats

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

Read More

Siar amach, siar go Conamara*

* Away to the west, back to Connemara

It is strange to be going south to the place of my belonging. I have always believed that belonging, for me, is a north-westerly phenomenon; now I find that actually, my internal compass points largely west. North may be a secondary component, but it is strange, nevertheless, to be heading homewards to the south.

I am on the road before 5am, with the sky crisp and the moon almost full. I love to travel in the dark, when the world is largely still asleep; it always feels as if I am travelling through a landscape peopled with the dreams of others. The car rattles, crammed with bedding and crockery, and all the contraptions I imagine I’ll need for the coming year of to-ing and fro-ing, of living here and living there: a year of navigating transience.

Read More

The Place of Belonging

A few years ago now, The Place of Belonging was the title of a book I was going to write. I never did; instead, I wrote If Women Rose Rooted, and some of what I’d intended to say about place and belonging went into that book, and some will go into The Enchanted Life, the book I’m working on now. Sometimes I think I’ll always be writing about it, because although the psychology of place and the myths and stories of place have been at the heart of my work for so long now, it seems that there is always something more to learn.

Read More